Entertainment: Pimp my movie

How a Canadian flick got a makeover for U.S. release.

Julia Sereny was pinching herself. It was January 2007 at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah and the film producer and her partner, Jennifer Kawaja of Toronto-based Sienna Films, were in the middle of the best possible fight: a bidding war for their $7-million movie, How She Move, a hip-hop dance romance set in Scarborough, Ont. Rare is the Canadian film that gets picked up for distribution in the U.S. Rarer still, one that wears its Canadian heritage so plainly: there’s even a Canadian flag flapping in one scene.

But the winning bidder, Los Angeles–based Paramount Vantage, had a proviso. The film’s dance finale was unconvincing and needed to be entirely rechoreographed and reshot. Sienna had made the movie in 25 days — fast for a straight drama, never mind with dance numbers. “We knew the dance finale was compromised,” says Sereny. “We just didn’t have the money.”

But PV, a “boutique” label of Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, did. So in June of 2007, an entirely new dance finale — new song, new moves, new everything — was shot in two days. For good measure, PV recommended some more commercially friendly songs for the hip-hop soundtrack.

“They looked at it and sensed the potential of Stomp the Yard,” says Hussain Amarshi, president of Toronto-based Mongrel Media, the film’s Canadian distributor who signed on at script stage four years ago. (Stomp earned more than US$60 million on release last year.) PV’s alliance with Viacom stablemate MTV gives them a promotional advantage. “So between the youth audience and the black audience, they have a significant market to position the film in,” says Amarshi.

How She Move will be released Jan. 25 across North America on at least 1,500 screens, the largest-ever opening for a Canadian film fully financed in Canada. Now that’s something to dance about.